Environment, Family Planning

Mr. Gore Goes (Back) To Washington

This Wednesday, March 21, former Vice-President Al Gore will testify before both
houses of Congress to discuss the growing threats posed by global warming. With
top scientists and world leaders in agreement that human-induced climate change
will have dire consequences if left unaddressed, Congress has an opportunity to
address one element that Mr. Gore has consistently cited as a leading
contributor to this crisis: rapid global population growth.

In his 1992 book, Earth in the Balance, Gore wrote that “No goal is
more crucial to healing the global environment than stabilizing human
population” and recommended that family planning supplies be made “ubiquitously
available along with culturally appropriate instruction” as a key strategy to
curb population growth.

Today, fifteen years after the release of this groundbreaking book, world
population has increased by 1.2 billion—the equivalent of four United States—and
it is projected to add an additional 2.5 billion people by 2050. The number of
women of reproductive age in the developing world has grown by 320 million and
with it the demand for modern contraceptives. The two largest countries in
sub-Saharan Africa, Nigeria and Ethiopia, have each more than quadrupled in
population since 1950. All of these countries continue to grow at rapid rates,
doubling in as little as 25 years—straining natural resources.

Ironically, even though the need and demand for family planning continues to
grow, U.S. funding for one of the most effective programs for addressing rapid
population growth—voluntary international family planning programs—has been cut
by one-third ($210 million) when accounting for inflation. To make matters
worse, President Bush’s budget for 2008 proposes to drastically cut
international family planning programs even more—a whopping 25% ($111 million)
from current levels.

By enabling women and couples to determine for themselves when and whether to
have children, voluntary family planning programs grounded in individual rigpopact
help stabilize world population growth. Tragically, this fundamental right is
currently being denied to tens of millions of impoverished women in the
developing world. In 1992, Mr. Gore wrote that “The U.S. should restore full
funding for its share of the cost of international population stabilization
programs and increase the effort to make birth control available throughout the
world….” PAI calls upon Congress to heed Mr. Gore’s wise advice. Time is of the
essence.

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